9 Flying Vehicles: An Overview Of “Flying Cars”

  • Published on March 28th, 2017 by

Originally published on CleanTechnica.

Have you ever dreamt of “driving” a flying car just like in Back to the Future? Well, this might happen in real life sooner than you ever expected. But, rather than flying cars, the technology that is being developed today looks more like human-sized drones.

We knew Amazon was developing delivery by drone, but what if you could go to the store in one of those small flying vehicles? Some such vehicles are already being tested. That’s the case for the passenger drone Ehang 184, invented by the Chinese manufacturer Ehang, founded in 2014. Presented at CES 2016 in Las Vegas as the future of personal transportation, the Ehang 184 will be used as a taxi service in Dubaï as soon as this summer! The Ehang 184 can carry passengers and their properties up to 100 kg through the roofs of the desert state.

Will this innovation be the future of passenger transport? We can’t be sure. If this technology is available for all, cities will need to adapt their infrastructure and create certain rules and regulations.

The technology is so new that everything is still uncertain. But it’s never a bad thing to dream a little bit about what our future could look like, so we’ll present to you all of the options in this realm that we’ve found and we’ll update this summary as soon as more passenger drones appear in order to keep our overview up to date.

While Elon Musk has spoken about the exciting potential of VTOL electric aircraft, Uber has already announced that the company will add 170-mph VTOL flying taxis to its on-demand transport mix. Larry Page, the CEO of Google’s parent company Alphabet, is also looking to the skies. He is involved in the startups Zee.Aero and Kitty Hawk, which are working on small, all-electric planes that can take off and land vertically — a flying car.

But let’s jump into an overview of several small flying vehicles. Feel free to provide us with feedback if we’ve missed some or if you have some thoughts on the topic! Have you seen the Ehang 184 in LA? Are you going to try it in Dubaï? Write us about your thoughts and experiences in the comments.

Ehang 184

After its presentation at CES 2016 and its experimental operation in Nevada, the “Autonomous Aerial Vehicle” (AAV) Ehang 184 will start carrying people this summer in Dubai. The 184 was named for “one” passenger, “eight” propellers, and “four” arms.

The 184 was designed to work with 100% green technology and is powered by electricity only. In Dubai, the innovative one-person aircraft will reportedly have a maximum speed of 160 km/h (100 mph) and a maximum flying height of about 3,500 meters (11,500 ft). Other key points:

  • “Multiple backups” in place
  • 4 of the 8 rotors can stop and the vehicle could be able to land safely
  • Auto-landing will take place in case of trouble
  • OnStar-like command center for fliers who need help

⊕ Company: Ehang (China)
⊕ Powertrain: electric
⊕ Seats: 1
⊕ Status: in production
⊕ Expected: start taxi service in Dubai in summer 2017
⊕ Specs: cruising duration of 25 minutes, speed up to 160 km/h
⊕ url: ehang.com

e-volo Volocopter VC 100, VC 200, VC 400

The world’s first certified “multicopter,” e-volo’s Volocopter VC200, made its first flight in April 2016. The Volocopter is a personal aerial vehicle designed to be so easy and safe to fly that anyone can command it. E-Volo’s next goal is to produce the Volocopter in series. In a further developmental step, air taxi services are expected to be established.

⊕ Company: E-Volo (Germany)
⊕ Powertrain: electric
⊕ Seats: 1, 2, and 4
⊕ Status: ready for production
⊕ Expected: series production within next 2 years
⊕ Specs: —
⊕ url: e-volo.com

Lilium Jet

Lilium is an all-electric VTOL (vertical takeoff and landing) aircraft created by a team of engineers from Munich’s Technical University. The company is backed by the European Space Agency. The small aircraft is already at the scaled-down prototype stage, with a full-size prototype underway. Lilium aims to open its order book in 2018. Conceived to be elegant and fast, safe and flexible, this electric flying car should be available in the market in 2018.

⊕ Company: Lilium Aviation (Germany)
⊕ Powertrain: electric
⊕ Seats: 2
⊕ Status: ready for production
⊕ Expected: 2018/19
⊕ Specs: Estimated cruising velocity of 250–300 km/h, Range of 300 km
⊕ url: lilium-aviation.com

XTI TriFan 600

The TriFan 600 is a VTOL aircraft concept launched by XTI Aircraft, a startup from Denver, USA. The 6-seater (5 passengers and 1 pilot) is designed to match the range and speed of existing small business jets, with a cruising speed of 630 km/h and range of 2400 km. It can take off vertically or on a runway, like a conventional aircraft. XTI plans a full-scale proof-of-concept aircraft for 2020, and projects deliveries to start between 2024–2026.

⊕ Company: XTI Aircraft Company (USA)
⊕ Powertrain: gasoline engine
⊕ Seats: 6
⊕ Status: active development & equity crowdfunding
⊕ Expected: 2024–2026
⊕ Specs: Cruising speed of 630 km/h, Range of 2400 km
⊕ url: www.xtiaircraft.com

A³ Vahana

Airbus is also entering the passenger-drones race and recently unveiled its design for an electric and autonomous VTOL aircraft. The vehicle program is called “Vahana” and is being developed by Airbus subsidiary A³ (pronounced “A-cubed”). A-cubed aims to fly a full-size working prototype before the end of 2017, and to have a scalable production demonstrator by 2020.

⊕ Company: Airbus/A³ (USA)
⊕ Powertrain: electric
⊕ Seats: unknown
⊕ Status: active development
⊕ Expected: 2020
⊕ Specs: —
⊕ url: vahana.aeroairbus-sv.com

Joby S2

The Joby S2 is another potentially game-changing aircraft that aims to improve the way society works, lives, plays, and travels. A 2-seat, fixed-wing, electric aircraft, the S2 provides a quiet and reliable means of airborne transport. This environmentally friendly personal airplane requires 5 times less energy than conventional auto transportation at 5 times the door-to-door speed. The S2 is in active development, and we’ll update you when specifications are available.

⊕ Company: Joby Aviation (USA)
⊕ Powertrain: electric
⊕ Seats: 2
⊕ Status: active development
⊕ Expected: —
⊕ Specs: Range of 320 km, speed up to 320 km/h
⊕ url: jobyaviation.com

Terrafugia TF-X

According to the company Terrafugia, developing flying cars enables “a new dimension of personal freedom.” Founded in 2006, Terrafugia’s vision for the future is the TF-X: a mass-market flying car with the potential to revolutionize the way we all get around. The TF-X is an all-electric vehicle with vertical takeoff and landing capabilities and computer-controlled flight.

⊕ Company: Terrafugia (USA)
⊕ Powertrain: gasoline engine
⊕ Seats: 4
⊕ Status: active development
⊕ Expected: 2026
⊕ Specs: range of 800 km, speed up to 320 km/h
⊕ url: terrafugia.com

AeroMobil 3.0

AeroMobil is a Slovakian company currently developing the AeroMobil 3.0, a posh-looking 2-seater that fits into any standard parking space … but uses regular gasoline. The flying car can be used both in road traffic just like any other car and at any airport in the world as a plane, theoretically.

The AeroMobil 3.0 can take off and land using any grass strip or paved surface with a distance of two football fields. After the completion of the final configuration, AeroMobil aims to set a manufacturing timeframe. The company expects to start delivering the product in the next two or three years. The sales process will start earlier.

⊕ Company: AeroMobil (Slovakia)
⊕ Powertrain: gas engine
⊕ Seats: 4
⊕ Status: active development
⊕ Expected: 2026
⊕ Specs: —
⊕ url: aeromobil.com

Moller Skycar

Founded in 1983 by Dr. Moller (a professor of Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering at the University of California), Moller International has been developing flying cars for more than 30 years. The company has developed the Skycar 200 and the Skycar 400. The first car is a lightweight, 2-passenger VTOL aircraft that can travel at 196 km/h over 700 km. The Skycar 400 is the 5th generation of VTOL aircraft developed by Dr. Paul Moller and is now in the “operational prototype” stage. The range for traveling at 210 km/h is 1295 km.

⊕ Company: Moller International (USA)
⊕ Powertrain: hybrid electric-ethanol
⊕ Seats: 2, 4
⊕ Status: active development
⊕ Expected: —
⊕ Specs: Skycar 200: range of 700km at 196 km/h; Skycar 400: range of 1295 km at 210 km/h
⊕ url: moller.com

Reprinted with permission.

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  • EricF

    Great, fun and interesting, but how is this green? Are we still looking at the big picture?